Keto Diet and Sleep: Where Does Magnesium Factor In?

Numerous studies connect adverse health problems with not getting enough sleep. Adequate sleep protects your brain from aging, files memories from the day, and “washes” out the grime that built up over time.

Did you know that sleeping about 8 hours nightly flushes out built-up proteins lurking in your brain?

Much like a dishwasher, your brain cleanses and flushes itself of the build-up collected during the stress of the day. During deep sleep, the brain dilates the spaces where the spinal fluid flows throughout the brain. Upon awakening, the canals and channels resume their smaller size. As they close down, they wash away extra debris found within our brains. Without a steady, predictable sleep schedule, this debris builds up instead of getting flushed away.

People who get 6-7 hours of sleep for several years instead of 8 have a junkyard of debris found at a cellular level in their brain. They have the cognitive decline to match. Slower thinking, more depression and a higher risk of dementia looms in brains suffering from low sleep. The longer this problem continues, the worse the brain functions.

Do you get enough sleep?
One easy way to assess your sleep is to look at the scale. Yep! Being fat is both a cause and effect of reduced brain function.

This sound too extreme to be true. Take a look at this study titled “Sleep Extension Improves Neurocognitive Functions in Chronically Sleep-Deprived Obese Individuals,”

Does this sound too extreme to be true?

The researchers evaluated 121 obese people. They included both men and premenopausal women who slept less than 6.5 hours nightly.

Their brain-tests at the beginning of the study showed a third had impaired memory, a third could not hold their attention, 42% had deficits in motor skills, and over half failed simple executive function tests. These obese folks struggled with mental flexibility, planning, problem-solving, and impulsivity. They tended to favor immediate reward vs. long-term gain.

Without using any medications, the researchers used lifestyle management techniques to lengthen the time and quality of their sleep for two weeks. Half the patients were told to make no changes, and the other half worked on improved sleep hygiene.

All of them wore a monitor that assessed their sleep quality and duration. At the conclusion of the study, global-cognitive-function, and attention improved by 7% and 10% respectively. They also showed a tendency for improved memory and executive functions.

Bla Bla Bla. Why should you care?

First, it clearly linked sluggish brains to short sleep and a fat tummy. This is not new information. The research bolsters our known link between obesity and brain function.

Second, it shows two weeks can make a difference! In only two short weeks of improved sleep-hygiene, brains can function better. Chronically sleep-deprived, obese people make up a large part of the U.S. population. They make up a large part of the patients that visit my internal medicine clinic. Most of you reading this fall into that group.

Poor sleep doesn’t stop with the link to fat tummies and sluggish brains.

Insomnia increases your risk of cancer, diabetes, gut problems, depression, and overall mortality.
That’s right DEATH. Poor sleep kicks you closer to the grave.

Don’t stop reading. There is hope.

My keto-adapted patents report improved sleep duration and quality within ten days of producing their first ketone. Not only that, I can see it in their sleep studies and their mood.


Your brain needs proper nourishment to function best. Our brains are 70-80% fat. Every circuit winding through your fat-coated brain sends messages at lightning speed. The speed messages flickering through your brain travel down the neurons. Each neuron is coated with fat. During periods of deep sleep, you continually repair and replenish the fat insulating each pathway. If your brain has bathed in ketones for the past several months, the fat insulating those neurons will be thicker and of greater density. In short, a fast message can tunnel down that nerve.

In comparison, bathe your brain with insulin and increased glucose on a high-carb diet, the quality of fat produced suffers.

High amounts of glucose found in the blood and brain attract water. Water and “electricity” don’t mix. The swollen, inflamed tissue associated with increased insulin slows brain processing. Chronic swelling within your brain slows the speed of your messages. If there’s one fatty tissue in your body you want well-nourished, it’s your brain.

The quality of the fat produced daily inside your brain depends on how well-nourished your brain’s fat-making cells are. If these cells are swollen and inflamed, the fat they produce is flimsy and breaks down quickly.

During ketosis, the quality of the fat lining your mental circuits improves, as does the depth and quality of your sleep. A swollen brain is easily fatigued, yet does not sleep well. The longer you expose your brain to higher ketones and lower blood sugars, the better you sleep.

Additionally, ketosis forces my patients to address the magnesium in their bodies.

Most of us are low on magnesium.

This little mineral holds the key to dozens of processes in your brain. Ketosis forces symptoms of low magnesium to come to the attention of my patients. Ketosis transition flushes your body of the excess fluids in the first ten days. This correction happens at the expense of magnesium, along with calcium, potassium and other minerals. company website

Many studies link poor sleep to calcium and magnesium deficiencies. The magnesium loss produces the most significant symptoms to my patients.

I do my best to warn them about this and advise them to replace that magnesium from Day #1 of the keto diet. Many transitions occupy them first few days in ketosis. Often patients can’t keep up with all these changes.

The Biological Benefits of Magnesium
The biological benefits of magnesium are far-reaching and complex. Magnesium assists many enzymes that control how the body experiences, manages and interacts with stress. This “relaxation mineral” reduces stress, lessens anxiety and lifts depression by lowering cortisol levels in the body.

It’s through this complex chemistry that elevating the levels of magnesium in your body help treat and prevent sleep problems. If you are like most Americans, you lack adequate levels of this vitally important mineral.

My favorite prescription to replace magnesium is a 40-minute bath three times a week right before bed. It is not just hot water. The bath is a magnesium bath. Yep – put 4-6 cups of magnesium salt into the tub and soak for 40 minutes. Add this routine to a ketogenic diet and prepare for the best sleep in years. Another favorite prescription is to send patients to a float spa. These too use magnesium to help patients relax. The magnesium density in the float spas compares to the salt density of the Dead Sea. Patients can not sink. They float in very concentrated magnesium-water for 60-90 minutes. Within three floats, patients report dramatic improvement in their anxiety and their sleep.

My favorite sleep lecture is in the video below. An oldie . . . but a goodie!

If you want to learn more about the ketogenic diet, check out the book ANYWAY YOU CAN on Amazon or Audible by Annette Bosworth, MD.


Sleep Extension Improves Neurocognitive Functions in Chronically Sleep-Deprived Obese Individuals

Eliane A. Lucassen, Paolo Piaggi, John Dsurney, Lilian de Jonge, Xiong-ce Zhao, Megan S. Mattingly, Angela Ramer, Janet Gershengorn, Gyorgy Csako, Giovanni Cizza , for the Sleep Extension Study Group

Published: January 15, 2014


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